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THE REFERENDUMS FOR CHILDREN'S SERVICES

Hernando County voters will decide Tuesday whether to join five other Florida counties in earmarking tax dollars for children's programs. Listed on the ballot as Proposition 4 is the question of whether county property owners should pay up to a half mill in taxes to set up a Children's Services Council, which would finance selected juvenile programs in the county.

At the maximum taxing rate, 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, the proposal would cost the owner of a $75,000 house with a homestead exemption $25 a year. It would raise about $1.5-million a year.

The 10-member council would have four elected officials, a representative of the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services and five local residents, appointed by the governor.

The proposed council, modeled after a Pinellas County agency formed more than 40 years ago, is supported by a substantial list of Hernando leaders and residents.

Those supporters say Hernando's children are suffering from a scarcity of services such as drug and dropout prevention, counseling and day care. State money for social services is spread so thin it doesn't even cover crisis intervention programs for young people, the backers say. And the state money supply is getting smaller.

If voters approve the referendum, the council will study which youth services exist in Hernando and which services are needed. The council would review proposals from local agencies to meet those needs and would use the tax money to finance the programs.

The council also would evaluate each program annually to determine whether it is meeting its objectives efficiently.

_ COLLINS CONNER

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